Strolling through the medieval quarter of Vitoria-Gasteiz is like taking a step back in time. Declared an area of historical interest in 1997 many of the buildings, walkways and streets of the old quarter remain intact. The city has one of the best preserved Casco Viejo’s in Spain.
Self-Guided Walking Tour
Part of the fun of discovering a historic town is to let yourself get lost in its winding streets. This simple route helps point you in the right direction. But leaves enough room for discovery.
A Medieval Meeting Point
Start from the bottom, and work your way up. Vitoria’s network of streets form an almond-shape, this walking tour starts at Plaza de la Virgen Blanca. This is one of the oldest meeting points in Spain. Standing in the center of the Plaza is the monument to the Battle of Vitoria, a battle which took place in the city in 1813 during the Napoleonic wars. From the square look for San Miguel Church, inside check out the baroque altar of Gregorio Fernández. To the left of the church is small and picturesque Machete Plaza, with its arcaded buildings and the Villasuso Palace from the sixteenth century.
Stairs, a Palace and a Playing Card Museum
Now it is time to head up, follow the stairs on Calle Santa Maria until you will find the imposing Montehermoso Palace. Built in Gothic-Renaissance style it was one of the first noble houses built in Vitoria, together with the Water Storage Building next door it is now used as a cultural center and exhibit space.
Down and heading to the right to Santa Ana, is Bendaña Palace, home of the Fournier de Naipes Museum, one of the most unique collections of playing cards in the world.
Santa Maria Cathedral
Up the hill, you will arrive at the impressive Santa Maria Cathedral or Catedral Vieja, built on the edge of a defensive wall during the latter part of the thirteenth century. This archaeological and historic monument is undergoing a complex restoration. Guided tours are available during the restoration process which has been recognized as a cultural heritage by the European Union. Great care is being taken to study how the cathedral was originally built. It is one of the few churches in Europe where visitors can see a gothic cathedral in the making. The restoration has drawn international interest from expert historians and archaeologists around the world.
After the Cathedral
Behind the cathedral is the Portalon, a medieval building which was once a busy tavern that sat at the main entrance to the city. It is now one of the finest restaurants in town. Next to it is a bar that serves excellent fire roasted chorizo — a worthwhile stop if you are hungry. Along the cobble stoned Calle Correría, on the corner of Las Carnicerías is the tower of Doña Otxanda, home to the Museum of Natural Sciences. At the end of the route, be sure to visit the gothic church of San Pedro (St. Peter), built between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
Learn about Vitoria’s Museums.